When the world stopped and changed direction earlier this year leaving behind live events, we along with the rest of the industry were left with just three options as to how to advise clients to proceed with their upcoming events being to cancel, postpone ( and hope ) or to go online.
From our perspective cancelling seemed like a waste (and potentially just a little defeatist) which really left us with just two options and of these the one that we’ve seen subsequently take off like a gold rush is taking events online. Everyday we receive another invitation to attend an event that has recently gone virtual and while we suspect a big driver behind this stems from the desire to make the most of already sunk costs, the uncertainty over future restrictions coupled with the ever emerging value of online events suggests this is not just a short term solution but rather a viable event format that is here to stay. And that’s a good thing.
But what about sponsorship?! ( and networking, exhibiting, engagement etc) I hear you cry. Fear not as there is a way forward that should bring more ROI to both sponsors and events and here is just three reasons why;
Accountability. One of the biggest challenges in attracting and keeping sponsors is having the ability to clearly illustrate ROI. And in the case of sponsorship this means showing the sponsor was able to connect and have a measurable impact on their target audience. You can have the most successful event with thousands of attendees streaming through the turnstiles but unless you can definitively prove the who, how, where and when these attendees actually interacted with your particular sponsor there is no proof it benefited them in any way. One of the biggest advantages of online events is data. Hard data that enables you to prove exactly who interacted with your sponsor, how long they did this for, where they were from, who they worked for, what else they looked at and any number of other pieces of information that translate to real value and return on investment for your sponsors!
Connectivity. Another challenge with traditional events is enabling sponsors to connect with individuals in a meaningful way. Now prior to Covid 19 we all were spending more and more time online and certainly this was the main vehicle events used to connect with delegates. And of course with millions working from home this adoption of living online has only increased. So allowing sponsors to participate with an event online will therefore provide greater opportunities for them to connect one on one with your delegates. The digital format allows for far better targeting and personalisation of their messages and interaction with individuals which subsequently greatly increases their chance to have a meaningful impact.
Timeframe. While best practice current sponsorship practice looks at the time leading up to an event as being just as fruitful in generating ROI as the event itself, many sponsors still see the event itself as the time to harvest their involvement and launch whatever activity they have planned to connect with attendees . Regardless of the approach taken, with an online event format there are multiple ways for sponsors to connect and influence their target markets with pre-event, event and post-event interaction activities. And again the longer the time frame the greater the return on their investment.
I watched a hackathon presentation around taking events online the other day that involved some heavy hitters in the industry and they were one and all very excited about all the possibilities that were opening up for them.The fact that our industry has been hit harder and earlier than most has forced us to get innovative ASAP and it shows! Keep in mind that it is still very early days and there are plenty of more innovative solutions to look forward to. Thankfully we’re in an industry that is renowned for coming up with solutions when it all goes pear shaped at the last minute.